Wow, ya'll. I mean it. Here's how it went down:
1. My grandparents wanted to take us (Daddy Don, Baby Lily Ruth and Mama Rachel) away for the weekend. Because I have such a forceful personality, it was decided that we would go to the coast (always my first choice).
2. We had the genius idea of renting a place on line since we've had great luck in the past. Granted, the great luck involved Hawai'i and it's hard to have bad luck when Hawai'i is involved. Our rules were simple - two bathrooms, two bedrooms and at least one bedroom had to be on the ground floor since my grandparents are not fans of stairs. That was all.
3. At some point in our search, a button was inadvertently pushed leaving us looking at accommodations in Palacios, Texas rather than North Padre Island, Texas. Our mistake was not immediately discovered. When it was, we decided to step out of our comfort zone (N Padre up to Rockport) and try something new. A rental agreement was completed and money was paid (rental fee plus a sizable damage deposit). We were excited. Menus were planned. Suitcases were packed.
4. Departure day arrived. Daddy Don was in Houston for business, and would be driving down to meet us. Mama, Lily and Lily's great grandparents (a.k.a. the Great Ones) drove down together. We got off to a bit of a late start, but Lily Ruth hung in there like a trooper. She 'talked' and 'sang' most of the way down. The drive was looooooooooooong. It took us almost 4 & 1/2 hours (including a few pit stops) to get there.
Here's where the story really gets going. We stopped in 'town' to check in and get the codes for the locks. Town is a term that can only be loosely applied to this burg. It had the sad, half-shuttered look of so many small towns these days. We only gave it a glance - not being ones to judge books by their covers... Then we made the short drive to the property. Click here to see what we expected to find. It looks older, but nice in the pictures. It claims to be a full house, so that's what we were expecting. What we were confronted with was a run-down, smelly, dirty, oddly configured mess. The ground floor had a partially private queen bed, two not private double beds, two chairs and a bathroom. The interior staircase was open and very steep. The upper floor had a partially private king bed, a galley style kitchen, a not private twin bed, a dining table shoved under a window with 3 chairs and another bathroom. THAT IS ALL. No living area to sit around in. No area for dining that would accommodate all five of us. No way to avoid having my grandparents traipse up and down the stairs. It was like a summer camp bunkhouse without the planned activities. Also (as I mentioned, but it bears repeating) dirty and smelly. It was BAD.
We unpacked the car anyway. Then we decided that it was too much to bear. Grandfather decided to call 'the guy' and ask if he had another option for us. He couldn't reach 'the guy'. Since it was closing in on 5 o'clock, we figured that we had better hoof it back into town before they rolled up the sidewalks for the night. We tracked down 'the guy' at his wife's coffee shop/used book store. We announced that we couldn't stay there. He acted shocked. Grandfather asked for his money back. He stalled. Hemmed, hawed and launched into a story about how he couldn't POSSIBLY call the owner at 5:00 on a Friday. After all (he blustered), the man is in a wheelchair... and he's an attorney... and he lives in Houston... and he was the last person in Houston to catch Polio before it was eradicated... as though any of that was a reason not to call the guy.
In the meantime, his wife got on the internet and tried to find us someplace in town that would be on the ground floor. She claimed that the only options in town would be on the second floor or higher. 'The guy' was still claiming that this had never happened to him before and acting like we were delusional for thinking we could expect any money back. Grandfather told the wife that 'this is why people our age decide not to go anywhere any more - there are too many problems'. It broke my heart.
We left. We drove back to the shack to repack the car. Ideas were tossed about in a half-hearted manner. Would we stay in Palacios or drive to Rockport? Grandfather maintained that a motel was a motel. I mentioned that a motel in Rockport would NOT be located in Palacios - in my mind, that made a whole world of difference. My point was conceded. We got BACK into the car, and headed for Rockport. Lily Ruth lost what was left of her good humor and began to complain vociferously. It was a LONG fifty minute drive.
Once we hit town, we began stopping at every possible lodging establishment. No vacancy, no vacancy, no vacancy. My grandparents began to look tired and discouraged. We pushed onward. Then we saw Daddy Don! After over an hour of phone tag, texts and fractured directions, he found us! We had also arrived at a place with a vacancy. The manager gave us a key so that we could evaluate the room (a bad sign in my mind). It was BAD. As bad as Palacios. The grandparents wanted to keep it because it was available. Thank goodness for Daddy Don and his fresh set of eyes. He was not discouraged, and he insisted that we could do better. Having him there even perked up the whiney Lily Ruth! We set out again.
After a few more instances of no vacancy, we were at the literal end of the road. A newish condo development right on the water. I raced into the office before Grandfather could get out of the car. I was determined to hear the 'bad news' first this time to save them the disappointment. Did they have any availability? One unit that had become available only thirty minutes prior (cautious optimism). Would it sleep all of us? Yes - it was a 1 bedroom plus a sleeper sofa (giddy grin). Was it available for two nights? No (boo, but not terminal). Was it on the ground floor? No, third floor (noooooooooooooooooooooo!), but we have an elevator (YESSSSSSSSSSS! *fist pump*)! One last question... (*ducks as though about to be slapped*) is it in our budget? Yes. WHOO-HOOOOOOOOO! I bounded out of there like a puppy with a new toy and crowed our victory to the waiting throng.
Grandfather paid the nice lady and got our keys. We unloaded the cars for the last time of the day. We sighed deeply. Grandmother cracked open the champagne and laid out our traditional 'first night' dinner of bagels, lox, cream cheese and fresh fruit. We began to unwind... eight full hours after we left home.
It was all uphill from there. Another unit - an even nicer one - became available for our second night. We packed and unpacked the cars one more time. Grandfather and Daddy Don played golf. Grandmother and Mama Rachel took Baby Lily Ruth to the used book store that Grandmother has been taking me to since I was barely old enough to read. Lily Ruth loved the bookstore - she found two 'new' books. Then we took Lily to the beach. She did not love the beach. She hated the beach. She did not want to walk on the sand, put her toes in the water or even sit on my lap while I sat in 5 inches of warm, gently rolling water. Oh well. We'll try again next time. She can have an opinion. It can be different from mine. I just wish that she loved the ocean like I do. Perhaps some day she will.
It was good to get away. It was great to spend some time with my grandparents. It was fun to go back to the coastal town that I grew up visiting. We did some good visiting, ate some great food, and spent too much time in the car. All in all though, it was a good weekend. Not what we had envisioned, but good. We came away a little wiser about renting on line. We also came home with a new standard for bad... 'oh, that's sooooo Palacios' now means 'that's terrible' or even 'that's so bad that it's unacceptable' in our family. Definitely a case of if you can't be a good example, you'll just have to serve as a horrible warning :-)